Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Bob Seger, "Heavy Music"

I'd heard for years that before he was a purveyor of nostalgic Dad Rock that Bob Seger was a rootin' tootin' rock and rolling legend in Detroit, where he toiled in obscurity before "Night Moves" made him a star. It's hard to discover this, since Seger has not made his music available on Spotify, and most of it is not available on iTunes. You won't see his early vinyl for less than a pretty penny at the record store considering its rarity and sought-after nature. However, I managed to get my mitts on Smokin' O.P.'s, an early 70s album of his that just happens to be on CD. (I believe he cut it at a different label than Capitol.)

I put that baby on in my car (the perfect place for it), and holy moly, I almost blew the bloody doors off. Everything they said was true. Early Seger rocked HARD, but through the prism of rhythm and blues, a tradition that the rock world had mostly abandoned in the 1970s. This is some ass-shaking, gut-busting good time music, but with a rough, diamond-hard edge. You would never believe that this wild man would ever write something like "Against the Wind" or "Like A Rock."

I'd like to highlight the song "Heavy Music," which is not the best song of his early years, but probably the wildest. It was evidently a huge hit on local Detroit radio (remember when local radio hits existed?) The beat is big and brutal, almost caveman like. The lyrics devolve into the kind of grunting and screaming that speaks to something heavy other than music going on. (Very much in the tradition of Ray Charles' "What I'd Say.") The whole loud, messy, sweaty whirlwind sounds like the missing link between Wilson Pickett and Iggy Pop. It's only appropriate, considering that Detroit was home to both Motown soul and Stooges/MC5 protopunk. Seger manages to put them together brilliantly. Now I guess I know why all his hits are all reminiscing about the old times, since back then he was a goddamn genius.

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